By Jeff Fortney
I bought my first computer well over 30 years ago. My friends were using a Commodore 64, and I was impressed. But I wanted the next-generation computer, one that did "more." When the Commodore 128 was introduced, I knew that was the one for me. It ran every program the 64 did but had a bigger memory and obviously could do more. It also cost more. It took me six months to discover more isn't necessarily better.
The 128 had twice the memory, but that extra space didn't necessarily translate into greater functionality. Software for it was in development, but most never came to fruition. Applications that did – like a Windows WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) product (an overlay that made the Commodore look like windows 2.0) – were extremely slow. Within six months, this fancy computer had become an expensive game console, a use for which the 64 version would have sufficed. And a costly lesson: sometimes bigger is not better or needed.
This experience did not sour my interest in technology. I remained an early adopter but became more selective and did more research before buying. The key wasn't whether a product was the next best thing. The key was whether it met my immediate needs and had potential for expansion while improving my productivity. For example, I purchased the first flip phone, but the need was there, and it greatly improved the use of my time – and my work product.
Throughout my time in the payments industry, I have observed and participated in the evolution of technology we all use. From the first terminals of yesteryear to today's cloud-based and software-as-a-service solutions, we have seen a continuously expanding array of new products and opportunities hit the market. The volume and sophistication of these advancements can be confusing – and a bit frustrating.
Lately, I have been asked this question often: I want to grow my business and keep the merchants I have today. Where do I invest my time and energy to insure I am on the cutting edge of the new solutions?
Although the particulars of my answers vary with each conversation, my message has remained constant from my first year in the payments world to today. Don't invest your time in learning cutting edge technology. Invest your time in identifying your prospects' needs first. And do this one prospect at a time.
The most common question merchant level salespeople (MLSs) ask merchants hasn't changed over the years: How do you process today? However, many MLSs fail to ask the questions that should follow, including:
If the answer is truly yes, let them know that's great, and then ask: Are you expecting to expand your offerings, and if so, will you have a need in the near future that your solution doesn't answer? Provide examples such as inventory management or table management. Again, do not fall into sales mode just yet.
If the answer to the third question is no, tell them you are sorry to hear that. Then ask what their current system doesn't do and whether they've looked for solutions to address this? The merchants may have tried to solve the issues but given up for various reasons, such as cost, timing, etc.
By asking probing questions, you will effectively position yourself as the solution provider even if you must research further to find the right solution.
Sure, you should understand POS basics and understand common needs that merchant types (such as retail and restaurant) will require in a POS system. But mastering a specific POS system and selling it, instead of identifying a merchant's needs and finding a system that fits those, will likely result in lost sales – and lost merchants.
Invest your time in your marketplace, identify individual needs and meet them. This will increase your success rate as well as retention. Isn't that why we are in the business?
Jeff Fortney is senior vice president of business development and partnerships for TouchSuite LLC, a fintech company providing POS systems, payment processing, SEO solutions, working capital and marketing services to small and midsize businesses. A long-time payments industry professional and mentor, Jeff focuses on strengthening and developing corporate partnerships and evaluating new business to drive strategic growth. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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